COPD and Vaping

There was a time when certain brands of cigarettes were marketed as being doctor-endorsed, which made many people take up smoking, leading to health complications such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD is a long-term lung disease that refers to chronic bronchitis and emphysema. A number of things can cause COPD, including:

  • Cigarette smoke: This is by far the most common reason people get COPD
  • Secondhand smoke: Even if you aren’t a smoker, you can get COPD from living with one
  • Pollution and fumes: You can get COPD from air pollution, breathing in chemical fumes, dust, or
    toxic substances
  • Your genes: In rare cases, people with COPD have defective DNA
  • Asthma: If asthma is not treated, lung damage can lead to COPD over time

Symptoms of COPD may include persistent cough with mucus, shortness of breath (especially when you’re physically active), wheezing, and tightness in your chest. Discuss any of these symptoms with your doctor.

Since there is no cure for COPD, the goal of treatment is to ease your symptoms, slow down its progress, treat any complications, and improve your overall quality of life. The best and most important thing you can do to treat COPD is to quit smoking. Other treatments include bronchodilators to open up your airways, corticosteroids to reduce airway inflammation, antibiotics to fight bacterial infections, pulmonary rehabilitation (exercise and counselling to help you stay as healthy and active as possible), and oxygen therapy. Severe cases of COPD may require surgery to remove diseased lung tissue or a lung transplant.

Many years have passed since doctors were endorsing cigarettes, and people recognize that cigarette smoking is bad for one’s health, resulting in a steady decline in the number of smokers over the past two decades. However, new emerging technology is causing new health issues related to the lungs: vaping.

If you’re unfamiliar, vaping is inhaling the vaporized liquid produced by an e-cigarette, vape pen, or personal vaporizer. These devices heat a liquid, usually containing nicotine (or in some cases cannabis oil), in order to inhale the vapour into the lungs. The liquid often contains other ingredients that are used to dissolve the nicotine or cannabis oil so that they may be vaporized, such as propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin. While these ingredients are approved food additives, they are untested and may be harmful when inhaled into the lungs.

New chemicals are created when the liquid is heated, such as formaldehyde, which is a known eye, nose, and throat irritant.

Vaping has been marketed by manufacturers as a healthier alternative to cigarettes, making them popular with smokers who are trying to stop smoking, and to teenagers who are aware of the dangers of smoking and believe that vaping is relatively harmless. However, there has been no testing to prove how healthy or unhealthy vaping actually is.

However, while even Health Canada has agreed that vaping is relatively healthier than smoking cigarettes (at least in the short term), vaping has recently been tied to a significant number of illnesses and even a handful of deaths. Life insurers have also started charging higher premiums for people who vape, just as they do for people who smoke cigarettes.

It is important to research the potential dangers of vaping, especially given the advantages compared to smoking. Long-term health effects of vaping will become better known over time, and ARTA members should remember that new technologies are not always what they seem when it comes to their health.